The Hills: Actually a Bravo Competition Show.


Even though this was my first taste of The Hills/Laguna Beach/The City genra of shows, I felt that the editing and overall style was very familiar.  I am a devoted Top Chef fan, and I know that pretty much all of the Bravo branded reality competitions have the same look and feel, but i was blown away to find out that The Hills fits eerily well into this style.

The opening credits for both shows go through their list of character/contestants with a heavy slathering of effects filters.  The main difference being that Top Chef acknowledges the audience while The Hills ignore it.  Watch from 0:55 to 1:40  of the Top Chef video and from 0:27 to 1:30 of The Hills video to get a sense of the openings.

In both shows the openings are followed by a similar set of cut scenes  that are repeated throughout the episode in between the competition or the teen drama.  Shots of busy streets, fancy restaurant interiors and exteriors, are beautifully saturated and framed to look “careless.”  What would have been ordinary shots are sped up and slowed down and shot with wide angle lenses to give a sense of movement and excitement to cars driving on a road or a person entering a building.

I suppose for arguments sake, Top Chef’s non competition editing can also be made for MTV.  There is an ever lingering sense that the editors are searching for any little shred of anger, friendship or romance to create a huge side story.  And while the cheftestants are not expected to be actors, some of them are more convincing in their obviously scripted, yet subtle product placements than Heidi is at playing the painfully stupid and meddlesome character in The Hills.

These shows also end in suspense that is blown out of proportion.  Through Lauren’s crazy escapades of the first episode, The Hills sets up what is expected to be a major chewing out of the main character.  I could picture in my mind the millions of commercials that week replaying Lauren’s nervous face, but instead she hardly gets a slap on the wrist.  Top Chef takes the same stance in their next week previews where it seems like Tom has had a conniption over someones terrible food or a portal to hell has opened up in the kitchen and a cheftestant is swallowed up.  Just like The Hills the suspense hardly ever pays off.


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3 Responses to “The Hills: Actually a Bravo Competition Show.”

  1. aspeele Says:

    So you’re saying that the contestants on the Hills are competing for screen time and that their challenges are playing characters? I definitely think this is truer of the later seasons. Heidi and Spencer and Kristin Cavalleri are just absurd, and while these people are obviously cognizant of the fact that they’re on TV, the earlier seasons seem like a time of innocence compared to the later ones, where people are getting compensated for being more indespensible (read: histrionic and cartoonish) characters.
    Here’s a salary list for the show, with a bonus interview with that dumb dumb Heidi:
    Of course, sometimes these characters “win” (get their own show) without compromising their integrity or throwing drinks in each other’s faces. Whitney Port, who the New York Times referred to as “the best approximation of a Shakespearean mute that reality TV has ever produced,” became the star of The City by being the least dislikable character on the show. There’s a lesson in here somewhere.

  2. alexalbright Says:

    I noticed the same thing about The Hills vs. Bravo reality shows. They both try to present the world as more glamorous and more dramatic than it really is. After watching a few episodes of the Hills for the first time, I was suprised at how little actually happens after all of the talk I’ve heard about it. The show seems to be composed of petty arguments and minor work problems. Just like how Bravo tries to make a big deal about someone under seasoning their steak, MTV tries to make a big deal about Lauren showing up to work 5 minutes late. When something exciting actually does happen, it seems so obvious that it’s drama played out for the camera. Instead of paying Lauren $125,000 an episode, they should really be paying the editors more, because they’re the ones that really make the show work.

  3. nickrk Says:

    That’s a good point that “little actually happens.” I think that is my main critique of reality shows (aside from their having little no no creative or artistic content), that there isn’t anything actually important or groundbreaking happening. It’s an exercise in editing, creating something visually exciting and stimulating from less than stellar source material. Why are Heidi and Spencer even considered celebrities? What did they do? Get married?

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